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WILDE, Oscar.

The Importance of Being Earnest.

A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.

London: Leonard Smithers and Co, 1899 Stock Code: 139231
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One of 12 signed copies

First edition, signed limited issue, number 12 of 12 copies signed by the author and printed on Japanese vellum. Wilde's last and greatest play opened to huge acclaim on Valentine's Day 1895 but was withdrawn after Wilde's failed libel suit against Lord Queensbury led to his arrest. The subsequent "utter social destruction of Wilde" (ODNB) meant that the play was not published in book form until February 1899, after Wilde's release from prison and incorporating some authorial changes. The play was issued in a standard issue of 1,000 unsigned copies, 100 signed large-paper copies, and the present issue of 12 signed copies on Japanese vellum. Wilde facetiously referred to this signed issue in a letter to Frances Forbes-Robertson: "it is not on speaking terms with the popular edition: it refuses to recognise the poor relations whose value is only seven and sixpence" (Selected Letters, p. 802). Mason notes that all the Japanese vellum copies were for presentation only, and not issued for sale.

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Small quarto. Original vellum, spine lettered in gilt, gilt floral motifs from designs by Charles Shannon on spine and covers, edges uncut. Housed in green cloth slipcase and chemise.


Light discoloration to binding, small patch of rubbing to front cover, contents with sporadic very light finger-soiling, a few leaves unopened. An excellent copy.


Mason 383. Rupert Hart-Davis (ed.), Selected Letters of Oscar Wilde, 1962.


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